- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

DENVER (AP) - A jury ruled Thursday that the University of Colorado wrongly fired the professor who compared some Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi, a verdict that gives the professor $1 and a chance to get his job back.

Then-Gov. Bill Owens was among the officials who called on the university to fire Ward Churchill after his essay touched off a national firestorm, but the tenured professor of ethnic studies was ultimately terminated on charges of research misconduct.

Churchill said claims including plagiarism were just a cover and that he never would have been fired if it weren’t for the essay in which he called World Trade Center victims “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi leader who orchestrated the Holocaust. Jurors agreed.

When the verdict was read, Churchill hugged his attorney, David Lane, and his wife, Natsu Saito.

The jury awarded Churchill only $1 in damages, but he has maintained that money was never his goal. A judge will decide later whether Churchill should get his job back.

If the verdict stands, the university would also have to pay Churchill’s legal fees.

Churchill’s essay was written in 2001 but attracted little attention until 2005, when critics publicized it after Churchill was invited to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York.

Churchill testified last week that he didn’t mean his comments to be hurtful to Sept. 11 victims. He said he was arguing that “if you make it a practice of killing other people’s babies for personal gain … eventually they’re going to give you a taste of the same thing.”

Betsy Hoffman, who was president of the university at the time, had testified that Owens pressured her to fire Churchill and said he would “unleash my plan” when she told him she couldn’t.

In his testimony, Owens denied threatening the university.

University officials concluded that Churchill couldn’t be fired over the essay because of his First Amendment rights, but they launched an investigation of his academic research.

That investigation, which didn’t include the Sept. 11 essay, concluded he had plagiarized, fabricated evidence and committed other misconduct. He was fired on those allegations in 2007.

The university has maintained that the firing was justified.


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